RIGORD AND HIS "DEEDS OF PHILLIP AUGUSTUS"
Rigord was born in Languedoc (perhaps Nimes) around 1145/50. He was a physician by profession and was still practising in the South-West when he began to write. By 1189 he had become a monk first at Argenteuil then at the mother house St. Denis near Paris, the great center of Capetian historiography. He died around 1209.
In 1196 he had already offered an early version of the "Deeds" to the king. In 1200 he prepared an abbreviated version for Prince Louis (VIII). There was also a sketch history of the kings of the Franks designed to assist visitors to view the royal tombs at St. Denis and take away the intended messages. It is unfortunate that the latter part of this is now lost, since the arrangement and identification of these tombs was a highly charged matter at just around this time.
His reputation stands or falls, however, by the "Deeds", a work that seems to have gone through various rewritings and was continued to within a year or so of the author's death. There is a fair amount of eye-witness testimony. But he also drew upon his abbey's archives and either both used and on occasion transcribed into his texts various kinds of documents and letters and even such public acts as royal ordinances and Phillip's will. Among the predecessors on whose work he also drew was Geoffrey of Monmouth, not a name to inspire either confidence or any special respect for Rigord's critical faculties. He certainly began his work in the spirit of panegyric, entitling himself "Chronicler (Chronographus) of the king of the Franks" but his view of his patron may, like those of his English contemporary Jocelin of Brakelond, also a Benedictine monk, have developed over time. Modern readers can try and make their own minds up on such questions from this translation. There must have been a fair number of medieval readers too. But when Guillaume le Breton wrote a continuation, he attached a brief summary of Rigord, claiming that "he is possessed by few and still not communicated to the multitude". A French translation was incorporated into the multi-volume Grandes Chroniques de France after 1274.
Gabrielle Spiegel, The Chronicle Tradition of Saint-Denis (1978) gives an excellent account of the broader context in which Rigord operated, and in English too. Two French articles by Elizabeth Carpentier, in Cahiers de civilisation médièvale 25 (1982), 3-30 and in Annales ESC 41 (1986), 325-46, may help further. John W. Baldwin, The Government of Phillip Augustus (1986) covers rather more ground than its modest title suggests and comments directly on Rigord's testimony at various points, eg pp. 100, 396-7.
My translation, though as accurate as I can make it, is a fast and free one, whose main aim is to make this fascinating text conveniently accessible in English. The scholarly will, if they use it at all, find that it sends them back to the Latin original. To speed up download time I have split Rigord's text, mostly by the years he covers,. To date, only the following year sections are available, taking the story up to 1192. I hope in due course to complete Rigord's first recension which goes up to 1196.